Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


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Tusk
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

The Fault in Our Stars
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language
Release Date:
June 6, 2014

This is Where I Leave You
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and some drug use
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Think Like a Man Too
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material
Release Date:
June 20, 2014

The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date:
September 19, 2014

 

Godzilla
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Release Date:
May 16, 2014

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

posted by rkumar
A
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

This is a story about one summer in the life of four friends, told with sincerity, heart, and a little bit of magic — the very same qualities that made the original book and its sequels a “you have to read this” classic for young girls.

Four 16-year-olds, friends since before birth, when their mothers met in a prenatal exercise class, are about to be separated for the summer for the first time ever. Just before they leave, they find a mysterious pair of blue jeans that somehow fit each of them perfectly, even though their sizes as shapes are as different as their personalities. They decide to share the pants as a way of sharing their experiences over the summer. As they mail the pants back and forth to each other, the jeans will help them share their stories and stay connected.

The first to wear the pants is shy artist Lena (Alexis Bledel of television’s Gilmore Girls) goes to Greece to visit her grandparents. On the island of Santorini she meets Kostas. Despite a multi-generation feud between their families — and a promise never to see him again, Lena and Kostas fall in love.

Outgoing and athletic Bridget (Blake Lively) goes to soccer camp. She thinks a romance with her handsome coach is what she needs to make up for the emptiness that she has felt since her mother died.

Aspiring writer Carmen (America Ferrera of Real Women Have Curves) goes to South Carolina to see her father (Bradley Whitford), who did not tell her that he was living with a woman (Nancy Travis) with two children and planning to get married.

And rebellious would-be film-maker Tibby (Amber Tamblyn of television’s Joan of Arcadia) stays home, working at a huge discount store called Wallman’s and trying to make a movie about how bleak and meaningless everything is. She meets a girl named Bailey (Jenna Boyd) who becomes her film crew.

Each of the girls wears the pants and sends them on to the next with a letter. As they all try on new experiences and emotions and feel a little lost and vulnerable, the pants and their friendship keeps them feeling close and supported.

What takes this above the level of the average something-for-everyone collection of stories with a group hug at the end is its willingness to keep things a little complicated and messy instead of tying everything up neatly into the TV-style resolutions most people think are required in stories for young audiences.

Characters make real mistakes, not cute flubs that are either quickly corrected or happy accidents that work out even better than the original plan. Some characters learn lessons and change their minds or their behavior, but others do not. Some wounds are healed and some of what is lost is found, but some not. This is more reassuring, rather than less, because in our hearts even kids know that is true; all endings are not happy. It is good to see how people handle that — and can even be enlarged by it.

The film benefits, too, from sensitive and committed performances by its five young stars (including the precociously centered Boyd, a real presence on screen here as she was in the otherwise awful Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star). They make us believe in the connection between very different characters. It’s almost possible to think of them as different aspects of the same adolescent — shy and bold, thoughtful and impulsive, cynical and hopeful. Together, like the movie itself and like those magical Levis, they are more than the sum of their parts.

Parents should know that there is a subtle reference to a sexual encounter [spoilers alert] that one of the characters initiates but later considers a mistake. This is handled sensitively and responsibly. The same is true of other difficult issues the characters must face, including the suicide of a parent, a difficult adjustment to a divorced parent’s re-marriage, and a very sad death.

Families who see this movie should talk about what makes such different girls such loyal and devoted friends? What are the most important lessons each one of them learns over the summer? Why don’t the pants fit Bailey? Families should talk about why this movie does not try to give everyone a happy ending or even an ending at all. Why was Bridget so wrong about what she thought would make her feel less lonely? How did her mistake help her to share her feelings with her friends in a way she could not before? What could Carmen have done to try to get to know her father’s new family better?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy The Babysitter’s Club. And, of course, they should read the book and its sequels.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

Can This Marriage Be Saved? (With apologies to the Ladies’ Home Journal)

John’s turn: We got married before we really knew each other. Now I wonder whether we’ll ever know each other. She always seems so controlled and controlling. I told her I didn’t like the drapes, but she doesn’t listen to me. We actually have dinner conversation about peas. Basically, I’m bored.

Jane’s turn: He never pays any attention to the things that matter to me. he doesn’t even remember how long we’ve been married. I just can’t talk to him. I don’t think we have anything in common.

The counselor’s turn: Jane and John had a strong attraction and married quickly without really understanding each other. Now they find little to say to each other. I think what they need is to find something they can do together.

Well, finding something they have in common and can enjoy doing together is what this movie is about. It seems that Jane (Angelina Jolie) and John (Brad Pitt) Smith have more in common than they know. They are both world-class assassins for hire. And when both are sent on the same hit and both fail, they are assigned to take each other out, and I don’t mean to a movie. Now that’s bringing your work home with you, big time.

Some movies illuminate the human condition. Some make us laugh and some make us cry. Some just show us beautiful people blowing stuff up, and that’s as good a reason to buy a ticket as there is, especially in summer. I suppose someone could try to make this movie a metaphor for the modern marriage and the challenges of communication and keeping love vital and new, but we will only pause there long enough to allow it to make us feel a little more comfortable about the fact that our two lovebirds have killed more than 400 people. What matters here is that Jolie and Pitt have sizzling chemistry and are clearly enjoying themselves and that director Doug Limon (The Bourne Identity) knows how to make action scenes work (and when to stop worrying about whether the plot makes any sense). After all, what’s more important — that we remember why any given character is shooting at another or that everything stops in the middle for Jane and John to do a tango? I rest my case.

Parents should know that despite its light, cartoonish tone, this movie has extensive and graphic “action” violence and peril, pushing the edge of the PG-13. The main characters are paid assassins and we see them killing and trying to kill lots of people. There is some strong language and there are some PG-13-ish sexual references and situations, including a bondage outfit.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was hard for Jane and John to communicate and trust one another and what will be likely to happen to them in the future.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Prizzi’s Honor, a more serious look at a similar situation. They might also enjoy a sweet WWII-era film about a boring couple who discover a great deal about themselves and each other when they join the war effort, Perfect Strangers.

The Longest Yard

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2005

After a series of interchangeable slacker movies with scripts that felt like two lines scribbled on a pizza box cover and a couple of sensitive performances in movies by A-list directors, Adam Sandler seems to be growing up at last. Instead of the boy-man with the strangled voice, he’s allowing himself to play a competent, if flawed character. And instead of winking at the camera, he’s allowing himself to play a character who confronts some significant choices in a meaningful way.

He’s got the help of a rock-solid script by Tracy Keenan Wynn, filmed once before in 1974, directed so you feel the punches by the cheerfully testosteronic Robert Aldrich, whose own The Dirty Dozen provided the template, a sort of a Dirty Dozen football team. The premise is simple: a bunch of bad and crazy guys who don’t work well with others take on a task no one else could or would. This version is slightly sweetened (from an R to a PG-13) and updated (O.J. Simpson joke, cross-dressing cheerleaders) but it’s still rough, and pleasurably so. It avoids the walrus-barf humor of Sandler’s previous scripts (though not the middle-school level sex jokes about fear of women and homosexuals). Sandler football movies have come a long way since Waterboy.

Paul “Wrecking” Crewe (Sandler) is a onetime star quarterback on probation after having been indicted — but not convicted -for shaving points in a game. When a drunken driving spree in his girlfriend’s Bentley ends in a pile-up, he is sent to prison for violating his parole. And this prison is not one of those country clubs with the Wall Street guys and Martha Stewart. He’s set for three years of hard time in Texas, where they “take two things very seriously — prisons and football.”

It turns out the football-loving warden (James Cromwell), who hopes to run for governor, has pulled some strings to get Paul sent to his prison. He wants Paul to help coach the prison guards’ football team. When Paul suggests the guards find a weak team to play as a warm-up before their first big game, the warden tells him to create a team from the inmates.

With the help of Caretaker (Chris Rock), the prison’s top scavenger and fixer, Paul puts a team together — they may not exactly be team players, but it turns out that telling them they get to tackle the guards is highly motivational. The men don’t know much about playing football, but some are big, some are mean, some are reckless, and some are fast. And they really want to hurt those guards.

The movie is about two things: Paul’s journey to find some kind of honor and seeing big men slam the heck out of each other many, many times. It wisely devotes most of its time and attention on the latter, with just enough narrative and character to make some of the slamming and crunching and crunching a bit more distinctive or to help it move the plot forward along with the football.

Sandler is better at acting like he doesn’t care than acting like he does. He doesn’t “act” so much as let himself be comfortable onscreen, which most of the time suits the character well. Rock seems to pick up on that vibe, and is relaxed and sweeter than he has been in other films. Rap star Nelly makes a fine impression, especially in a scene where he has to keep his temper while being taunted by the guards. Former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin and an assortment of other very, very large former football players and wrestlers enjoy themselves on screen and we enjoy watching them. And it’s nice to see the star of the original film, Burt Reynolds, as a former Heisman Trophy winner who coaches the prisoners and helps this film cross the goal line. Cromwell is not a match for the original film’s flinty performance by Eddie Albert, and Cloris Leachman is sadly wasted in an embarrassing role as the warden’s secretary who has especially warm memories of Paul’s underwear ads (a brief glimpse of the obviously computer-generated ad is more preposterous than funny). The original film still beats this one when it comes to touchdowns, but the remake will do as above average silly summer fare.

Parents should know that the movie has rough material for a PG-13, with very strong language (including the n-word, used both with and without intended offense), sexual references and situations, brief non-sexual nudity, humor about genital size and arousal, and references to straight and gay sex. There is some locker-room humor including brief silly slightly homophobic insults. Characters cross-dress and move suggestively. Some drink (including drunk driving), smoke, and take steroids and there are references to illegal street drugs as well. Many of the central characters are doing hard time for various criminal acts and other characters behave abusively or unfairly. The movie includes brutal beatings and more-than-full contact sports violence.

Families who see this movie should talk about whether it has a “happy” ending in traditional terms. What made Paul change his mind? What did he decide was most important to him, and why?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy seeing the original The Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds as Crewe and some other movies with football themes, including The Replacements and M*A*S*H. They may also enjoy the classic prison drama Cool Hand Luke.

Madagascar

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2005

Some charming performances and saucy humor cannot save this movie from its surprising insensitivity. Its core question is what happens to best friends in captivity, who, once returned to the wild, realize they are predator and prey.

The makers of this film might have had an idea that they were giving the audience an example of how even those with very different natures and cultures can find a way to live together, but this is not about conflict between the star-bellied sneetches and the plain bellied sneetches or even the ranchers and the farmers. This is about a lion whose best friend the zebra looks increasingly delicious as the zoo animals have to learn why it’s called “the wild.” The film does not gloss over or cute-ify that conflict the way The Lion King did with its salute to “The Circle of Life.” That film somehow managed to omit the details about the benefits of being at the top of the food chain, even if you’re a bug-eating lion. In this one, the lion looks at the zebra and is horrified to discover that his best friend is starting to look….delicious.

As the story begins, Alex (voice of Ben Stiller) is perfectly happy as the star of the show at the Central Park Zoo. He’s a downtown sort of lion, who loves being pampered and having his nice juicy steaks brought to him on a platter. His best friend, Marty (voice of Chris Rock) dreams of being in the savanna. He gazes at the mosaic mural of the veldt and wonders what it would be like to run without any cages to stop him.

When Marty escapes from the zoo, Alex and their two other friends, a warm-hearted and sensible hippo named Gloria (voice of Jada Pinkett Smith) and a hypochondriacal and nervous giraffe named Melman (voice of David Schwimmer) go after him. After they are recaptured, the authorities decide to send them to an animal preserve in Africa. But things go wrong and they end up on the shores of Madagascar. How will they survive without humans to take care of them? What will they do without audiences to entertain?

Up to this point, the movie is pleasant, even witty, with the reliable combination of cute characters, potty humor, and slapstick to appeal to kids and knowing wisecracks and pop culture references (“Twilight Zone” to “Planet of the Apes” and “Castaway” plus a managed care joke) to appeal to teens and parents. But then things go badly when the last part of the movie turns into an existential crisis for Alex, who realizes for the first time what being a carnivore really means. He doesn’t just want to have them to dinner — he wants to have them as dinner.

This fails its intended audience on the merits of the story and as a matter of appropriateness of content. Wile E. Coyote may chase after the Road Runner and Elmer Fudd may chase after Bugs Bunny, but in both cases the fun of the cartoons is seeing the prey outsmart the predator. The antagonists are not friends; there is no sense of betrayal.

The shift in tone is uneasy and sour, and the conclusion is too unsatisfying. Then the movie doesn’t end. It just stops, which is even more unstatisfying.

And there just isn’t enough in the rest of the film to make up for that mistake. The design is very good but animation looks a bit two-dimensional. We’ve seen computer wizards can make fur and water look even more real than reality before, so the technological marvels are all taken for granted.

The performances are nothing special, either. As is usual in animated films, the stand-up comics do better than actors in providing voices as vivid and colorful as their cartoon avatars. Rock, along with Cedric the Entertainer and Sasha Baron Cohen (Ali G) as lemurs outshine Stiller, Smith, and Schwimmer. But the show is stolen by the penguins, who are by far the funniest and most engaging and exciting characters on screen. If the movie had been about them, it could have been terrific.

Parents should know that a major element of the plot concerns whether Alex will eat his friends, which may be disturbing to some children. In addition to this and other references to predators, there is cartoon-style violence, including a kick in the crotch and guns that shoot tranquilizer darts. The inconclusive ending may also be unsettling. The characters use some crude schoolyard language and there is some potty humor. Parents may also want to reassure young children that telling your wishes is not “bad luck.”

Families who see this movie should find Madagascar on a map and learn more about the animals, including lemurs and foosa. They may want to visit the Central Park Zoo and the famous San Diego Zoo, described admiringly by the characters in the film. Families should talk about why Alex liked the zoo but Marty wanted something different. What does it mean to say that “everyone has a day when they think the grass is greener someplace else?” What should Alex and the others have done when they found out Marty left the zoo? Why did Marty and Alex find it hard to forgive one another? What did they learn from their time in the jungle? How did Alex learn to do something that was contrary to his nature as a lion?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Racing Stripes, about a zebra who wants to race horses, and Disney’s animated The Jungle Book and the live action The Jungle Book made 25 years earlier. They will also appreciate Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson and the classic Born Free (whose theme song can be heard at the beginning of this film), based on the real-life story of a tame lion who had to be taught to live in the wild. The film is a bit dated now in its portrayal of colonialism, but it is still a moving story. Families with older children should read Last Chance to See, the hilarious and touching book by Douglas Adams (of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide” series) about his real-life travels to see endangered species, including a Madagascar lemur called the Aye-Aye.

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